It’s been two years since fans last saw a new episode of Netflix‘s Dead to Me, but the wait is nearly over. The Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini dark comedy returns for its third and final season this fall. Created by Liz Feldman, the series became a quiet hit at Netflix. And while it’s certainly a bummer that the series is finishing, a show getting to end on its own terms is always worth celebrating.
Feldman figured out how Dead to Me would end while in production for Season 2, telling Deadline, “I always knew from the inception of the show that I didn’t want it to be a long long-running show.”
“Then there was a certain point when we were in production on Season 2 when the end of the show came to me, pretty profoundly, so I realized, ‘I know the story that I have to tell’ and Season 3 feels like the right time to do that,” she continued. “It’s just something that came to me organically, and I tend to try to follow the gut feelings I have.”
While we wait for an official release date of the Emmy-nominated comedy, let’s refresh our memories on the most important things that happened in Dead to Me Seasons 1 and 2.
In Dead to Me, Applegate plays Jen Harding, a tightly wound widow, who develops a strong friendship with Cardellini’s Judy Hale, a free spirit with a shocking secret. The women met in a grief support group after the death of Jen’s husband, Ted. Judy helps the grieving Jen manage her life with her two sons, Charlie (Sam McCarthy) and Henry (Luke Roessler), quickly becoming part of the family and Jen’s closest friend. Both of the women keep secrets from each other and everyone else in their lives all season long, but despite keeping the truth about themselves concealed during the beginning of their friendship, Jen and Judy connect. But the truth will out, and eventually, the secrets come to the surface.
At the end of Dead to Me Season 1, Jen learns that Judy and her estranged husband, Steve (James Marsden), were the ones responsible for Ted’s death. Judy was behind the wheel, but Steve was the one who convinced her to flee afterwards. Judy then found her way into Jen’s life to make up for what they had done. In the final moments of Season 1, the guilt-stricken Judy tried to atone by waiting for a car to hit her on the same turn where she hit Ted.
While Judy’s fate is up in the air on that deadly road, Jen is confronted by Steve in her backyard asking where Judy is. Seconds after Judy survives her would-be suicide attempt, Jen calls her asking her to come home. When she arrives, Steve is dead in the pool. The Judy and Jen/Steve scenes occurred in quick jump cuts. Jen is wielding a gun in her suspenseful interaction, and while the altercation ends with Steve dead, bleeding, and face-down in the water, viewers didn’t see how Steve actually died until Season 2.
Based on the finale, you’d think Jen shot Steve, but that wasn’t the case. She had told Judy she killed him in self-defense, but a Season 2 Episode 3 flashback reveals Jen bludgeoned him to death in a fit of rage with the bird figurine Henry loved so much. The rage was certainly warranted — the smarmy Steve egged Jen on by saying Ted jumped in front of their car and “wanted to get hit” in order to escape life with his wife. It’s giving “Cell Block Tango,” “he had it coming” energy.
Judy, who doesn’t know the truth about her husband’s death yet, helped hide the body by lugging it into a deep freezer in Jen’s garage. They make it through several close calls where people (including Henry) nearly discover their dark secret, which is now attracting rats. Jen tests out dropping some strong chemicals onto a rat to see if its body would dissolve, but is caught by Judy. This leads to crying and a power outage, and they agree they have to find a new way to take care of Steve.
All of this secret keeping happens as Judy develops a relationship with Natalie Morales‘ Michelle, Jen continues to navigate raising her grieving sons and working with her mother-in-law, Lorna Harding (Valerie Mahaffey), as well as advocating for a stop sign on the corner where Ted died. The death is being investigated by Det. Perez (Diana-Maria Riva). And on top of it all, Steve’s identical twin brother, Benjamin (also Marsden), comes to town trying to find answers about his missing brother.
Ben arrives after the FBI came to his home looking for Steve, who we learned in Season 1 was using his art gallery as a front for a money laundering scheme. The feds also raided Steve’s office looking for intel, and Jen and Judy spend many episodes scrambling to keep their secrets hidden.
That became difficult when Charlie took Steve’s car for a joy ride with his girlfriend, Parker. He found a case of Steve’s things in the car, and later, Charlie and his girlfriend are caught by a cop while hooking up in the backseat. They then drove somewhere more secluded, but the night ended with Charlie having to call Jen because they ran out of gas. This threw Jen and Judy into a panic, because the teens posted photos of the car on social media. Turns out, Parker had a large Instagram following and would only take the photos down if they paid her $1,000. The rather broke Jen paid the ransom, and then torched the car.
Eventually, Jen and Judy bury Steve’s body in a nearby forest that a middle schooler told them criminals frequently use for the same purpose. While Steve’s behavior in life was frequently abusive towards Judy, he had his human moments that Judy mourns over after burying him. She wanted to take his body to the beach, his favorite place, so they held his memorial there instead.
Steve and Ben’s mother, Eileen Wood (Frances Conroy), showed up to the memorial, and she’s not a fan of Judy. Also at the memorial was Ben’s girlfriend, who was four months pregnant with Steve‘s child. Police chief Howard Hastings (Jere Burns) also questioned why Judy was there in the first place, showing she was still a person of interest in Steve’s disappearance. Later on, a drunk Ben (who had been sober for a year), approached Jen on the beach, and they kissed. Judy witnessed it, and everything became to much for her when Perez said she was watching her. After Judy’s breakdown, a slideshow of Steve’s life played, and Charlie was shocked to see his joy ride car. And Ben announces a Steve Wood tip line and a reward for any useful information.
Jen and Judy resigned themselves to not pursuing relationships with Ben and Michelle, leaving them both heartbroken. Charlie confronted his mom about the car, which she successfully gaslit her way out of. Later on, she and Charlie come home to “I know what you did” spray-painted on their garage door. Fearing the worst, Jen headed to her neighbor’s house to look at their security footage. Turns out it was a message to Charlie from Parker, but Jen took the opportunity to have all the security footage from the week before deleted, getting rid of the Steve evidence.
Charlie and Parker’s breakup caused more problems than Jen feared, as Parker called the Steve tip line about the car incident. Charlie then puts the pieces together about what Jen did to the car, and then called a phone number in the case of Steve’s things he kept. It was the number for the police chief.
Through all of the chaos, Jen ultimately decided to confess to Steve’s murder. In the finale, she wrote notes to her sons and Judy, but only the note for Judy revealed her confession. Jen went off with Perez to the forest where Steve was buried, but an unexpected sequence of events leads to Jen not really confessing to anything, and Perez let her go. But Charlie found and read the note she wrote to Judy. Season 3 will reveal his reaction.
In the last scene of Season 2, Jen and Judy have a rare peaceful moment driving through their neighborhood when they discover a stop sign installed on the corner where Ted was hit. They briefly celebrate, but the moment is cut shockingly short when their car is T-boned by a drunk driver who turned out to be none other than Ben. All three seemingly survived the wreck, but Season 3 will show the fallout.
Dead to Me, Season 3 Premiere, TBA, Netflix